Social Media Influencers With 500,000+ Followers Are Celebrities – Advertising Standards Council of India –

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Social Media Influencers With 500,000+ Followers Are Celebrities – Advertising Standards Council of India –

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has amended its definition of celebrities to now include social media influencers with a following of 500,000 or more.

Beyond traditional concept of ‘influencer’

It is of the view that up until now celebrities were thought of as popular actors and sports personalities which endorse brands and influence large audiences.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General of ASCI, highlighted the transformation in the definition of celebrities with the arrival of social media and the growing influence of digital media influencers.

The emergence of social media influencers in recent times has necessitated a broadening of the definition of celebrities to encompass such influencers.

Updated definition

The updated ASCI code now defines celebrities as individuals who either receive compensation of Rs 40 lakh annually (or its equivalent value) for their appearances in advertisements across various media formats or possess a social media following of 500,000 or more on a single social media platform.

This expansion goes beyond the previous criteria, which only considered individuals earning Rs 20 lakh from endorsements.

It also broadens the scope of ‘celebrity’ to encompass notable figures like doctors, authors, activists and educators.

Menace of misleading advertising

Kiran Ramamurthy, COO, Media.Monks India, comments, “The influencer space has been largely unregulated and we have seen cases of how damaging any kind of misrepresentation can be. The financial influencer community has had cases that have raised the hackles of financial regulatory bodies.”

Indeed, ASCI noted a significant surge in misleading advertisements featuring celebrities, with over 500 such instances occurring in 2022-23, compared to 55 the preceding year.

This shows that several celebrities fail to follow legal obligations and feature in ads making false or deceptive claims.

Responsible usage of influence

According to the Consumer Protection Act of 2019, the responsibility of conducting due diligence lies on all endorsers, whether they are recognized celebrities or not.

ASCI says that due to their disproportionate influence on the back of substantial follower counts, celebrities need to demonstrate greater responsibility to ensure their followers are protected from deceit. 

This is all the more important considering these influencers significantly impact consumer spending habits and engender trust due to the close personal rapport they share with consumers. 

Due diligence

The ASCI code lists specific guidelines for celebrities including carrying out due diligence to substantiate and verify claims made in advertisements.

They will have to share genuine opinions about products, backed by their own knowledge or experience of the product or service being advertised.

They are also required to provide evidence of their due diligence when requested.

Forbidden product categories

Advertisers are ordered to develop their ads in line with ASCI’s advertising guidance.

Further, celebrities are barred from appearing in ads for products, treatments, or remedies that are prohibited from advertising under the Drugs & Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act of 1954, as well as the revised Drugs & Cosmetic Act of 1940 and Rules of 1945 (Schedule J).

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